How many games are in the 2024 CFL season? Exploring Canadian Football League's game structure

108th Grey Cup
The Canadian Football League begins play on Thursday

The NFL may still be on break, but the Canadian Football League (CFL) will soon be here to satisfy hungry gridiron fans' desires. Starting on Thursday, nine teams from all over Canada, led by the defending champion Montreal Alouettes, will compete for the right to claim the Grey Cup, one of the most prestigious sporting titles in the nation. But how does the league's scheduling work?

Each team plays 18 total home and away games, regardless of division, plus two or four intradivisional games with rotating opponents. From June to August, games are played at night from Thursday to Sunday. In September and October, games are instead played on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. There are three bye weeks per team.

The Labour Day Classic is the biggest gameday in the league, roughly the equivalent of Thanksgiving. It usually features the first half of the Toronto–Hamilton, Edmonton–Calgary, Winnipeg–Saskatchewan, and Ottawa–Montreal geographical rivalries.

The division leaders get a bye to the division final. The second placers then host the third placers, unless a fourth placer from one division has a better record than the other's third placer (known as the crossover rule, which has happened only thrice since its inception in 1996, and none of the beneficiaries reached the Grey Cup). The winners of the division finals then meet for the Grey Cup.

NFL vs. CFL: The differences in play

There are many differences between the CFL and its more popular southerly counterpart.

First, a CFL field is larger (110x65 yards vs. 100x53.3), and the goalposts are located in front of the end zone, rather than at the back. There are fewer players allowed on the active roster (44 vs. 53) but more allowed on the field (12 vs. 11), and they have only three attempts (downs) to cover 10 yards per drive, as opposed to four.

Any missed field goal, punt, or kickoff that is touched by the returning/defending team at the end zone, unless returned, counts as one point (called a rouge), after which the team that was scored against may snap the ball from its 40 (or at the previous line of scrimmage in the case of a missed field goal.)

CFL coaches have only one timeout as opposed to three in the NFL, and they get warned that the quarter is ending when there are three minutes left, rather than two.

Each team gets two chances to break a tie at the end of regulation, after which the game is ruled a draw.

Edited by Nicolaas Ackermann
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